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Nov 15, 2009 10:14 AM

San Marzano tomatoes at Costco

There is a big batch of La Regina San Marzano tomatoes at the Etobicoke Costco. Big 106 oz cans for $3.99! I usually pay that much (or more) for a 28 oz can at Fiesta Farms. Unreal value, I stocked up.

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  1. Thanks for the tip. I just picked up 4 cans.

    I've never used them, are they really "All that??"


    9 Replies
    1. re: Davwud

      Eh I mean, they're tomatoes. They aren't really going to blow any minds. But you'll notice the quality difference - I make a huge batch of Mario Batali's tomato sauce for my freezer, and it's just way better with San Marzanos.

      1. re: Davwud

        I really only notice the difference in recipes where the tomatoes shine on their own and aren't hidden by a ton of spices and other ingredients. But in those recipes, the tomatoes really are lovely.

        1. re: TorontoJo

          Do a taste test. Make the same sauce with Canada choice, Italian (non-San Marzano) and San Marzano tomatoes and I think you'll be able to taste a major difference from one to the next. I can eat San Marzanos straight from the can, whereas Canada choice tomatoes are generally too acidic and cause canker sores in my mouth. Regular Italian tomatoes are pretty good, but with the San Marzanos I can literally taste the sun via their sweetness. I have a source in Windsor that sells them for $2.99-$3.99 a can, depending on the brand. I won't use anything but San Marzanos now, unless I can't find them, in which case I'll drop a notch to Italian imported plum tomatoes.

          1. re: 1sweetpea

            Heading to Windsor this weekend. I used to shop at Le Stella on Erie?

            1. re: spine64

              That's the place, spine64. Ask specifically for San Marzanos, if you don't see them.

            2. re: 1sweetpea

              Okay, these tomatoes are certainly better than the usual stuff we get up here.

              Lately I've been bringing Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes up from down yonder but these are equally as good I think.

              I pureed them and have them in a pot with a couple pounds of meat balls, couple pounds of hot Italian Sausage, some garlic, onion and green pepper (not a lot) a bit of red wine and some herbs from our garden. Should be fantastic.


                1. re: Full tummy

                  Oh god, it was awesome. We pigged out.


          2. re: Davwud

            Davwud, you can really taste the difference if you make your own Pizza. A Margherita with San Marzano tomatoes crushed by hand is outstanding. Other than the fresh basil, that's the main flavour of the pizza. I have to say that a 106 oz. can is going to make one huge mofo of a pizza.

          3. Anyone see these at other Costco locations in town? It would take me a half hour just to drive to Etobicoke.

            5 Replies
            1. re: LUV_TO_EAT

              I can confirm these are also available at the Warden/Ellesmere Costco. They're at the "front" end of the pasta aisle hidden behind a stack of antipasto.

              1. re: sbug206

                Thanks, I'll be there on Friday. I didn't want to travel to Etobicoke for them, and they are not in Ajax.
                Frankly they should have done this years ago, as they do in the U.S. They'll be amazed at how much can be sold when Chowhounds are shopping.

                1. re: sbug206

                  Thanks for that. I may just get there before jayt90, hehehe.

              2. After doing further research. I'm having serious doubts whether these are authentic San Marzano tomatoes. First on the can it says San Marzano BRAND. Authentic San Marzanos are supposed to have a seal with a DOP serial number. These don't. Plus they say CHOICE GRADE. Normally choice is not premium. It would certainly seem to be a case of too good to be true. Although even if it's generic stuff $4 a can is still a bargain.

                On a side note, I found this website selling the same can for 12x the price!


                20 Replies
                1. re: sbug206

                  Oops, that's not for an individual can but a case of 6. Still 50% more expensive than Costco.

                  1. re: sbug206

                    If you really like them then there's no harm in buying them. I have also bought lovely tomatoes that said San Marzano somewhere on the label, but on closer inspection, it seems that some Italian companies are just cashing in on the name, but have no D.O.P. serial number. I try to find the real deal, but if they aren't available, the wanna-be San Marzanos are fine substitutes, in a pinch. I find those ones a bit less beautiful in the can. Either they aren't quite as red or they're a bit less sweet, but only a bit. They're still much better than canned tomatoes from either Canada or the U.S.A., organic or not, IMHO. Just don't overpay for the imitators, thinking that they are the real thing. That's just downright sneaky on the part of the store selling them.

                    1. re: 1sweetpea

                      There is more information on the origin and canning of the tomatoes in the site sbug206 supplied
                      This company imports a VPN pizza kit to the U.S., and they use these same San Marzano tomatoes (produced and canned in the area, but no DOP seal.)

                      A Wikipedia entry explains the superiority of the San Marzano tomato seed, and volcanic soil, compared to Roma tomatoes used elsewhere.

                      Despite the lack of DOP seal, these cans should be very good, and I expect to stock up in case they run out.

                      1. re: jayt90

                        Well I would suspect that if we all stock up, that'll show 'em that there's a demand for these.
                        I've never use SM but these were certainly superior. Mrs. Sippi was stunned at how good my sauce was.


                    2. re: sbug206

                      As long as the taste is better than what we already get and the price is reasonable, think most Chowhounders will buy it. I know I will.

                      I did some quick research on DOP (c&p below). DOP seems to be a label that costs the manufacturer a "fee"...kinda of link Champagne vs Sparkling Wine. The region in Italy created the DOP label to generate a fee for marketing and to keep the price high IMO. Just my thoughts on DOP vs no DOP...I'm not willing to pay 4x the price for the label.

                      To DOP or not to DOP? - With the San Marzano tomato becoming very important to the local economy, the Italian growers have formed the Consorzio San Marzano to oversee the production and marketing of this tomato variety. Thus, the San Marzano tomato has been given DOP status by the European Union. The main argument for doing this is to protect the San Marzano tomato product from others using this name with different products. . Factories in the San Marzano region which market their products as DOP San Marzano must pay the Consorzio San Marzano to use 2 stamps on their labels; the EU’s DOP stamp and the Corsorzio San Marzano stamp. These fees then contribute to the continued operation of the Consortium.

                      1. re: LUV_TO_EAT

                        Interesting research - I also looked into this brand, as I too noticed the lack of DOP emblem on the can. Seems that most pizza places that make Neapolitan VPN style pizza use the La Regina, I guess it strikes the best balance between value and San Marzano taste.

                        1. re: LUV_TO_EAT

                          I bought numerous bushels of San Marzano toms at Colangelos this year. Have yet to dive into any of the sauce bottles. I wonder if there is much (any?) difference between the variety when grown there and the variety when grown here.

                          I can confirm they are pain to work with cus they are so small, unless you puree them through a machine.

                          1. re: Paulustrious

                            They say the soil has something to do with it.
                            This all seems much like Vidalia Onions. They're, by law, sweet onions grown in Vidalia County, Georgia. Anything that is the same varietal but not grown in Vidalia are just sweet onions. Are they different?? Who knows??


                            1. re: Davwud

                              Right...maybe they're unique, and maybe it's all about the branding.

                                1. re: Davwud

                                  Just to confirm - they are still at Warden / Ellesmere Costco. Picked up 6 cans. I did notice though that they are whole and not seeded - at least they didn't say they are seeded on the can).

                                  Lots of them left.

                                  1. re: Paulustrious

                                    I bought 4 cans this afternoon about 3 pm at Warden and Ellesmere. Lots left. They say they have added Basil

                                    1. re: Herne

                                      Added basil and tomato puree/juice is an export feature to avoid certain taxes. I don't think it's done for flavor.

                                      1. re: jayt90

                                        That's a new one on me. Where did you come across that?

                                        (and is it an import or export tax?)

                                        1. re: Paulustrious

                                          I think it is for canned tomatoes destined for the U.S. Less import tax if the tomatoes are supplied in tomato juice or puree, and the basil is thrown in as an extra. I remember this from a thread in eG, maybe their search engine will find it.
                                          In any case it is possible Costco is importing these cans into their eastern U.S. terminal, rather than Halifax or Laval, before they arrive here.

                            2. re: Paulustrious

                              We have grown our own San Marzano with seeds we brought back from Italy. It is definitely the soil and climate. Not near the same thing. I like buying SM packed in Italy better for all the work and not the flavour of growing and preserving them.

                          2. re: sbug206

                            I just came back from Costco and checked these out. Although the price at $3.99 is very very good, they are not San Marzano tomatoes. It's a brand. My local Italian shop sells this brand as well at pretty much the same price as their other brands of canned tomatoes including Pastene (around $1.89/$1.99 for the regular size cans). They sell Pastene San Marzano canned tomatoes at $3.99. So...good price for canned tomatoes.

                            1. re: lula

                              The cans you question contain tomatoes grown in San Marzano, and they are of the San Marzano plum variety. They are less expensive than San Marzano D.O.P. labelled tomatoes, but essentially similar. Some producers want to provide the same quality at a lower price, and by avoiding the D.O.P. licensing, and the EU fees for D.O.P., these cans are available at an attractive price to big buyers such as the warehouse club.
                              I have purchased several cans and found they make a rich tomato sauce .

                            2. re: sbug206

                              Is there a resolution to the DOP serial number issue?

                              1. re: Herne

                                The Costco product is non-DOP, Choice, from a canning plant in San Marzano, naming its product by the name of the town. The can says Italian peeled tomatoes, so they could get supplies from outside the area, but that hasn't been confirmed.
                                I tasted them against Emma Choice San Marzano DOP ($3.49 for 28 oz. ) and couldn't say one was inferior to the other. Both were good, but Emma was costly in comparison.
                                Perhaps someone can do a comparison with a San Marzano DOP rated higher than Choice, if available here.

                            3. The original comment has been removed
                              1. I made my standard simple tomato sauce with a can of these tonight, to compare since that's what I generally make for pasta sauce. I could tell the difference at dinner for sure. But now some hours later, after leaving the sauce sitting idly in the kitchen for a few hours and microwaving a small bowl now... mannnn, so much better than normal. Much more sweet.

                                I pureed them in the can using a hand blender before adding to the pot. I usually crush them by hand, but thought I'd puree this time. No complaints. Didn't puree the onions though, and I added ground beef, so it still had some texture.

                                Totally recommend you grab some of these. I was at the Queensway location.